Question Development

New questions must be thoroughly tested before they can be deemed suitable for a census. In deciding what subjects to cover and what questions to ask, we are consulting many people and organisations to take full account of Scottish circumstances. We are also considering:

  • how acceptable the questions are to the public
  • how to ask questions in a way that produces reliable answers, and
  • whether other ways of collecting the information already exist.

The Scottish Parliament will then make the final decision on which questions to include in Scotland's Census 2021.

We work closely with the UK's other census offices to ensure that consistent UK-wide census results are available where there is user demand (subject to approval, where appropriate, of the relevant legislatures). We are working alongside the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) to gather as much evidence as possible to ensure the 2021 Census questions are clear and robust.

Our own complimentary programme of question development in Scotland uses qualitative and quantitative study and involves a wide range of community stakeholders to inform question development. The following sections provide more information on the range of studies being carried out in advance of the 2021 Census.

Topic Consultation

A Topic Consultation ran between 8 October 2015 and 15 January 2016 and sought views on the topics users felt should be included in the next census. Information about this consultation, and the Topic Consultation Report are available on our Consultations page.

Topic Events and Focus Groups

We held a number of Topic Events, meetings and focus groups throughout Scotland to publicise our plans for question development, capture more detailed information about user need and determine the quality and acceptability of new questions. Information about our events, meetings and focus groups can be found on our Get Involved pages.

Question evaluation criteria

Two frameworks have been designed by NRS to evaluate the effectiveness of question design:

Topic Areas

UK Harmonisation

NRS works closely with the census offices for England and Wales (ONS) and Northern Ireland (NISRA). A key aim for the 2021 Census is to produce consistent and coherent outputs for the UK and for each component country. The Registrars General of Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland agreed (subject to the need for approval where appropriate by the relevant legislatures) to conduct censuses simultaneously in 2021.

  • The conduct of the 2021 censuses in the UK – The agreement between the National Statistician and the Registrars General for Scotland and Northern Ireland can be found on the Background on Scotland's Census 2021 page